Thursday, November 15, 2007

Really short reviews (I hope)

In yet another forlorn attempt to do justice to a dozen or so books which really do deserve to be mentioned, here are some quickies. More to follow soon.

David Isaak: Shock and Awe

This is a Macmillan New Writing publication, and it's unusual in that series (though not unique) in that it's by an American. How come? Basically, the Americans thought the theme was too hot to handle. Said one editor: 'The fact that the bad guys are Americans makes this a hard sell for us.' See David's blog for the backstory.

Essentially Shock and Awe is a thriller: modern, hard-edged, full of action, professional in its approach and skills; there are some superb descriptions of action at sea. It's long, but then they all are these days. It's intelligent: the author asks questions that other US writers don't care to ask; and it is deeply cynical, with good reason, about the motives of the US government. The book is also sensitive: we get, for instance, an insight into the mind of a lapsed Christian who has had an abortion. And either David Isaak has written before, or else he's been practising.

This is not a book to read if you're the kind of person who lies awake at night worrying about the future. But if you're the normal don't-give-a-shit type, this will entertain you.

Gladys Hobson: Awakening Love

A total contrast to the above. Awakening Love is a book for women readers, undoubtedly. And Englishwomen of a certain age, at that.

I read this book before publication, and was pleased to provide a supportive quote for the cover. Modern young women have absolutely no idea what it was like to grow up and come of age in the 1940s and '50s. Many young women then (though by no means all) lived in almost total ignorance of the 'facts of life', and the result, all too often, was disaster. I was particularly impressed by this portrait of a rather naive young woman struggling to make her way in the world.

Further details and sample chapters et cetera are on the publisher's web site.

Steve Almond: (Not That You Asked)

Another total contrast. This is a non-fiction (sort of) book, a collection of essays, by an American humorist with a pretty good track record. It's subtitle, or principal title perhaps, is Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions. (I like that comma after Exploits; which reveals one of my own obsessions.)

Humor, or humour as we Limies have it, is the key here. The book is indeed droll, and it would make a good gift for a bookish, mid-Atlantic sort of friend. Mr Almond often makes fun of himself, which is thoughtful of him, and you can read extracts and stuff on his web site.

Charles McCarry: The Tears of Autumn

In the UK, Overlook Press continue to put out new editions of Charles McCarry's masterly series of espionage novels; the series has been discussed here before. One of the latest (scheduled, I see, for February 2008) is The Tears of Autumn. It was first published in 1975, and it provides one of the earliest and most convincing explanations (other than the official one) for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

This novel has been widely recognised as one of the best by one of the most thoughtful political, and mercifully non-literary, novelists of our time. And that's all you need to know really. If you haven't read any McCarry, start at the beginning of the canon and go on to the end.

Poetry

Finally, this blog does not really do poetry as I am completely unqualified as a judge, but a couple of volumes have come my way which are noteworthy as examples of what can be done these days for comparatively little money.

Time was when a poet had little chance of publication. But now, as we all know, publication is a fairly cheap option. And poets who go around giving talks and public readings and the like can carry a few copies with them, and sell on the spot.

First example: The Primrose Path and other poems, by Bob Taylor. The poet here is a retired Yorkshire miner, one who had a less than happy time in the miners' strike of 1984, but survived it to become a poetically inspired Christian. Details and samples at Magpie's Nest Publishing.

The second example also features Bob Taylor, with Gladys Hobson and guest writers. Northern Lights is a collection of poems and stories from the north of England. A number of writers here are survivors of the Christopher Hill debacle. This is also a Magpie's Nest publication.

27 comments:

David Isaak said...

Been practising, actually. But bless you! (I hope to write a shorter book next time round!)

Gladys Hobson said...

Thanks for the mention, GOB. It has taken six years for my baby (Awakening Love) to be born — I'm pleased you like her little smile!

An interesting group of books mentioned.
We have just started a new book by an acclaimed author, but finding it hard going. The story if okay, it is just the way it is written. After the smooth reading of your book — The Suppression Of Vice — we are finding this one difficult to read aloud due to sentence structure and rather odd metaphors. I guess that is what folk want these days.

Andy O'Hara said...

I can't help but appreciate Steve Almond's humor (I'm in the US). Anyone willing to take on Oprah, the "Savior of Publishing," has to be worth reading.

Having read some of Bob Taylor's fiction as well as his "Primrose Path," and admittedly not a poet myself, I can say that he's a pleasurable read with a nice touch of whimsy and humor.

And Gladys Hobson is a phenomenon of her own, frankly. I began with her "Angels Lie" and am only starting "Awakening Love," but I could never keep up with her productivity (and quality). One of the best covers I've seen, by the way.

Great reviews, Your Grumpiness--much to keep up with!

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Anonymous said...

difficult to assess most of bob taylor's poetry - childlike or childish - chauvanistic, controlling - maybe it's more about himself - would that descibe him. disappointed I would look forward to something with a little more genuine insight

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Gladys Hobson said...

With reference to "Anonymous" comments regarding Bob Taylor's poetry:

Anyone who thinks of Bob's poetry as expressing "chauvinistic and controlling" attitudes has failed to register the fact that he is laughing at himself and the type of values that once existed in closed mining communities. Instead of "childlike or childish" substitute "playful". Read carefully through his book of poems (and particularly his devastating story of the 82-84 miners' strike featured in Northern Lights) and you will find a portrait of a carefree young man growing older and wiser about life, at times cynical but still capable of seeing the funny side of life. Yes indeed his poems embrace much about himself — not trying to be "clever" and presenting himself in an intellectual light (even though he is incredibly well read) but open and honest about how "he was" and how "he is" after his devastating experience followed by a "saving grace" experience. These poems are not fanciful but the stuff of one man's life.

poetry - childlike or childish - chauvanistic, controlling - maybe it's more about himself - would that descibe him. disappointed I would look forward to something with a little more genuine insight

Parantar said...

i wanna have book. hehe

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Birds of Rhiannon said...

Looking for info on Yorkshire Poet.. whose lines were used in recent Dalziel and Pascoe show.. Investigating a death in a Yorkshire mine. One character is attending poetry lessons wherein a poem is quoted.. thanks for help all.. Anna

Birds of Rhiannon said...

Anyone know the Yorkshire poet quoted in recent Dalziel & Pascoe show? A mine death investigated, a young man in poetry class reads the poem..possibly The Thin Vein..

thanks for helping..

Anna

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